The Louisiana High School Athletic Association volleyball schools will get the chance to tip off their seasons as planned next week while keeping Phase 2 limits in place because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Area high schools have received a LHSAA memo stating the decision to move forward with in Phase 2, which allows schools to scrimmage other schools twice before the regular season begins Sept. 8.

Previous LHSAA guidelines didn’t allow the volleyball season to start until the state moved to Phase 3, but the memo said things will move forward under updated strict guidelines, which includes no more than 25 students in a gym and essential personnel limited to 10 adults only during matches. That also includes two officials, coaches’ athletic trainer, etc.

Temperature checks, benches that are socially distanced and face masks are required, though players will have the option to decide if they want to wear a face mask while playing. Officials, coaches, other essential staff and players on the benches must wear face masks. Also, when schools play junior varsity/varsity contests, the gym must be sanitized between contests.

The St. Thomas Aquinas Lady Falcons and the Loranger Lady Wolves participated in a scrimmage against each other Sept. 2 and the coaches for both teams were happy that their teams were facing an opponent instead of practicing and doing drills against each other.

Both teams played to a draw with each team winning twice before a time limit forced stoppage of play. In the first game, the Lady Wolves jumped out to a 3-1 lead as sophomore Maddy Shields delivered a kill and junior McKenzie Chavers fired a service ace.

St. Thomas rallied to take a 4-3 lead with a service ace by junior Sarah Cusimano and a kill by sophomore Shannon Alack.

The lead went back-and-fourth with neither team getting more than two-point advantage until Loranger went on a 5-0 run to make it 18-13 with Shields getting a pair of kills and the Lady Falcons committed passing and spiking errors. St. Thomas could get no closer than three points the rest of the game as freshman Ava Shields fired a pair of kills to make the final 25-21.

In the second game, Loranger jumped out to a 3-1 lead again, but St. Thomas rallied with senior Brilee Broussard and sophomore Ashley Graziano each getting a kill. Neither team could break away and were tied at 22-22 when Loranger committed a pair of spiking errors to that led to a 25-23 win for the Lady Falcons.

In the third game, STA used its momentum to take a 7-1 advantage. Shannon Alack had a pair of kills and senior Kelsey Deakle along with Broussard scored a point off a double-block at the net to lead the surge.

St. Thomas built the lead to 17-4 before Loranger mounted a comeback. However, the Lady Falcons took advantage of passing miscues by the Lady Wolves to maintain its double-digit lead to clinch a 25-12 win.

In the fourth game, the Lady Falcons moved ahead to a 6-3 lead. Loranger rallied to take an 11-10 advantage on a kill by junior Gabby Wheeler. Chavers and Ava Shields added a pair of kills to stretch the Loranger lead to 18-14. St. Thomas was not able to close to within three points the rest of the way as junior Taylor Stevens scored on a service ace to make it 24-20. A spiking error clinched the 25-20 win for the Lady Wolves.

“It was great to be back in the gym playing a match against another opponent,” said Loranger coach Misty Holden. “It was good to put the kids in game-like situations and see what exactly what we need to work on. At first, we looked a little rough by rushing things, but we picked back up. It’s all about learning, fixing it and doing it right.”

How different was playing with no fan support in the gym?

“We always want fans in the stands because they help cheer us on,” Holden said. “I always say we’ve got to have enthusiasm and energy. That’s why you saw me saying that to them because you get that from your spectators. This will be the biggest challenge.”

First-year coach Courtney Roblez of St. Thomas Aquinas was working on establishing her team offense and defense as the players continue to adjust to the new scheme.

“It was a good opportunity just for my kids to get used to playing. It’s a lot different for us because I’m a new coach and were establishing new rotations and offensive plays,” she said.

“In the first game, we pretty much beat ourselves,” Roblez added. “Our communication and positivity enabled us to take a big lead and win 25-11. Once we can get more comfortable playing with each other we will do much better.”

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